Friday, March 30, 2012

Drawing the line at, whatever we feel like?

DC Comics had a slogan called"Drawing the Line at $2.99", which is a clever way of saying that all of their comics would cost no more than $2.99. This slogan was ushered in January 2011 and phased out right before the revamping of their comics with the New 52 in September of 2011. According to sales figures, the campaign had no affect on DC sales. While the slogan may have disappeared as had the prospect of increased profits, the actual pricing of many DC comics remained 2.99.

DC's flagship title, Justice League (JL) costs $3.99. This is the same as some of their more popular titles such as Batman. JL is drawn by DC's visionary leader Jim Lee and was the first comic released for the New 52 line. Less popular titles of the New 52 line are still priced at the $2.99 mark. This difference in pricing had me wonder why some of the DC comics are priced at 3.99 while others at 2.99. 

iFanboy website laid out some solid reasoning as to why the $2.99 price tag was done away with, such as someone who doesn't normally read a comic would see 2.99 be just as expensive as 3.99 in light of how much time per $ they would receive in entertainment. I would add that the retention of the $2.99 price tag is in effect for less popular titles as a way to encourage new readers on board. These are the readers that already buy comics on a weekly basis and acts as a low price point to entice them to try a new title. If the title becomes more popular (as a result of the low price acting as a lure), then I would wager the price tag would jump to the $3.99 mark. Another reason for the price differences is that there is likely a difference in the artist's page fees. Every artist employed by the big companies such as DC and Marvel are paid per page they draw. Better and hence more popular artists can command higher page rates than less skilled and hence less well known artists. These lesser known artists often draw fledgling comics and hence the production costs for these comics is also less. The idea of different page rates would explain why Jim Lee's JL costs more than say Supergirl who is illustrated by Mike Johnson (who by-the-by does produce some great art but isn't as well known as Jim Lee).

The topic of the New 52 also reminds me that the majority of the initial story arcs have now ended. Out of the 52 new comics released back in September of 2011, I have continued reading roughly 6 on a regular basis and occasionally grabbed a few issues of about 3 or 4 others, but find myself always a few issues behind on them. 

Lee's cover for JL

Mack cover for DD
Justice League is the first of the New DC comics to complete its initial story arc while it seems that most of the others are about 1 or 2 issues away from doing the same. I have been pretty pleased with the comics that I have continued reading except for Green Lantern, which has a sluggish story and I am still mystified (to put it kindly) as to why nothing in the character's life had changed following the Flashpoint series. As to the Justice League story, I was immediately enamored by the highly skilled line work of Jim Lee. His art is still one of the finest in the realm of comics, although at times it is more flashy than substance unlike other artists such as David Mack. 

2 pages from JL featuring smashy-smash panels & no dialogue
The initial story arc of Justice League was interesting because it rapidly brought the team together as the evil Darkseid made a play at taking over the world. This brought us some spectacular fight scenes that utilized Lee's art to the fullest. However, the context of the story was rushed leaving myself wondering why Darkseid was doing any of this; I'm sorry, but a reason of 'he's just evil' does not always cut it. In the end, there really wasn't much of a story that Geoff Johns brought to the starting plate of Justice League. We were really only handed a beautifully drawn six issues of fight scenes where the characters clumsily found themselves brought together as a means to stay alive during Darkseid's devastating attack in America, which by-the-way is where apparently every extraterrestrial /demon likes to invade the world. I can only hope that from issue 7 on we see an actual story somewhere in the pages of Justice League. Otherwise, I may only regularly be collecting 5 comics from DC.

Well, I think I rambled along enough here. Suffice to say that I understand (for the most part) why companies like DC charge different prices for their comics but that doesn't mean I like it. And speaking of not liking something, I really hope that an actual story with a plot emerges in JL. While I love Jim Lee's explosive fight sequenced paneling, I would also love to know who these characters are!

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